Harrow Local Authority, with funding from Primary London Challenge enabled a group of schools to develop and run an innovative mathematics project which is dedicated to helping children and their parents/carers work together to improve children’s mathematical development.
Ocean Maths is a registered charity which grew out of a project in Tower Hamlets. The Ocean Maths programme is a series of home learning activities, paired with workshops for parents/carers and their children. The programme runs through KS1, 2 and 3. The Harrow LA project focused on children in Y4, 5 and 6, with initial set up support from Ocean Maths.
To set up the project, a meeting was first arranged between Ocean Maths and Harrow Local Authority. The Curriculum Adviser (Mathematics), Debbie Cummings, then wrote an open invitation to all schools and 23 primary schools in Harrow chose to be involved.
A total of £55 000 in funding from the London Challenge was used with the bulk if the funding, approximately £1 500 per school, being used to purchase the Ocean Maths homework sheets. The homework sheets promote active engagement of parents/carers and children with activities and games to work on together. Parents/carers are urged to share the work with their children, but not to do it for them, so that there is a feeling of learning together. Ocean Maths provides 15 homework sheets per year group, i.e. five per term for each child.
Initially a half day training for project leaders was provided and a series of workshops for Year 4 children and their parents/carers in 18 schools. There was a high level of turnout (approximately 50%) at all schools and positive feedback from both adults and children.
“It was amazing and it was fascinating seeing people having an interest at maths so next time I’ll bring my mum.” (Year 4 child evaluation of initial workshop.)
“I thought this was an excellent workshop. The games were entertaining and fun. It is the first time my daughter has laughed repeatedly whilst doing maths and asked to do more.” (Parent evaluation of initial workshop.)
The Local Authority gave ongoing support to set up and sustain the projects in each school by providing resource development, termly network meetings and links with Ocean Maths.
By July 2010, around 5000 children in years 4, 5 and 6 will have had access to a series of workshops.
In most of the schools one of the teachers has been given a coordinating role and many found that having an overall plan of workshops was useful so that themes and activities are not repeated. A small but significant number of parents have not yet engaged (a maximum of 5 per class) and various strategies are being used to encourage further parental involvement such as letters, advertisements on the web, talking to parents/carers in the playground and changing the times the workshops are offered. Teachers new to the scheme found it invaluable to go along and observe a workshop taking place.
Feedback from teachers is very positive, with 75% identifying some improvement in pupils’ understanding of mathematics, and that style of homework and parental involvement were contributing factors.
In feedback from a recent school workshop children said:
- Ocean Maths is the best lesson ever
- I have learnt a lot about fractions. It was awesome
- I like it! It’s fun and it helps me improve.
And parents said:
- I enjoy the Ocean Maths session as it helps my son and myself. It allows me to understand how and what they are learning
- beneficial for my child and me but as a working parent it isn’t always easy for me to attend.
Of the schools involved in 2009-10, more than 50% will continue to work with Ocean Maths in 2010-11, finding the funding from their own budgets.
To find out more about Ocean Maths view their website. This gives details of the benefits and impact, how Ocean Maths works in both primary and secondary, the support available and a useful video of Ocean Maths in action with comments from teachers and Head Teachers.